Home > Prototyping and wireframing > 3 common high fidelity prototyping myths debunked

Web and mobile app prototyping is probably the smartest way to build a successful product. So why doesn’t everyone do it? We bust 3 common myths about high fidelity prototypes.

High fidelity prototyping is one of the most powerful tools designers and developers have to build great user experiences. With a high fidelity prototype, you can carry out user testing, experiment with navigation patterns and information architecture, and run through the design-test-iterate cycle as many times as necessary, all before writing a single line of code. You’ll weed out the glitches earlier, and faster.

So why do some product teams still shy away from integrating high fidelity prototypes into their design process? Oftentimes, it’s not because people simply “don’t want to prototype”, but rather because they think they they can’t, for some reason. Their perceptions of what a prototype is, or what it takes to produce one, might be off track; they might not think they have the resources, time or smarts to prototype effectively; or they might have heard some common myths around prototyping that have limited their view of its potential.

Let’s take a look at 3 common myths around high fidelity prototyping and put them to the test.

Myth 1 – You can get the same effect with wireframes

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good wireframe. There’s definitely a place in the design and development process for basic wireframes: they reveal where content such as images and text will appear on screen, demonstrate basic information architecture, disclose the navigation outline. What’s more, wireframes present a great opportunity for designers to brainstorm ideas fast and fearlessly – few designers get emotional about an ugly-ass wireframe.

That said, there is some stuff that wireframes just can’t do. They can’t convey the gesture-based interactions used in mobile-first design. Scrolling, zooming and panning are a no-no. Animations or dynamic interactions have to explained verbally, which is pretty arduous and, with less savvy stakeholders, can result in misunderstandings. And as for conditional logic – don’t even go there. Wireframes, while great for information architects and early stage designing, have their limitations.

A high fidelity prototype is always going to be more faithful to the eventual product (obviously, hence the term high fidelity!); you can build in rich interactions, smart behaviors, data-driven logic and mobile gestures, then test user reactions to the interface to get an honest picture of how successful your design solution is. Prototyping at this fidelity also acts as a much more effective design communication tool between internal members of the design team, and between design team and external partners. Being able to share and test prototypes on different devices, or Cloud them across to stakeholders for comment, helps to cut rework and scope creep.

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Myth 2 – You need to be a programming ninja to make viable prototypes

There’s an ongoing argument on whether designers absolutely positively need to know how to code. While not wanting to jump into the ring on that one, it’s fair to point out that coded prototypes are just one of various prototyping process models available.

There are plenty alternatives to creating coded prototypes these days. Static UI mockups can be created with everyday software such as PowerPoint and Photoshop, or more targeted tools such as Balsamiq or Mockplus; interactive, data driven prototypes can be created with tools that use drag and drop facilities and intuitive interfaces to create viable prototypes. You’ll be able to create fully interactive prototypes and test them on a range of devices with zero programming knowledge.

Check out Cooper’s extensive, updated list of prototyping tools to see which one is right for you.

Myth 3 – High fidelity prototyping is expensive

Budgets are usually tight regardless of the project; managers and product creators rarely want to spend extra dollars on creating a prototype that might be discarded. But skimping on the prototype-iteration stage is a false economy: money ostensibly saved on jumping straight from design concept to development will, with grim inevitability, convert into money lost when the end product has low uptake, poor engagement or zero market share. Better to make an initial outlay on prototyping and to produce a profitable product than to end up with a dud.

Add to that the fact that the financial outlay for even high fidelity prototypes needn’t be onerous. You can try Justinmind for free for a month, and thereafter there are different payment plans for different projects. Plus most prototyping tools come complete with pre-baked UI kits for a range of web and mobile app prototypes, which save time and effort on the part of the design team. Could be that taking that extra time to prototype a high fidelity solution actually adds value rather than subtracting profits.

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High fidelity prototyping myths – the takeaway

Software design and development is a tricky business to get right, and it doesn’t help that myths abound on the ‘right’ way to develop digital products. Myths were made for debunking though, so the next time a project stakeholder claims that it’s too complicated or expensive to move up from a wireframe to a high fidelity prototype, it’s worth checking whether the project is being guided by reality or rumor.

Cassandra is Marketing Lead at Justinmind

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